Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays. While it’s celebrated around the globe, the festivities originated in Ireland. Irish celebrated the feast of Samhain, a Celtic tradition in which ghosts and spirits came to hunt the people and were only appeased by the gift of treats. The feast then spread to Scotland and parts of Britain. When Christianity rose within the area, Christians adopted native traditions in order to convert others. All Hallows Eve was then celebrated on the 31st, preceding the feast of All Saints Day on November 1st.


When the Irish immigrated to America they brought this celebration with them and Americans thought quickly adopted it. Little by little, it evolved into a children’s holiday, and society commercialized it — making Halloween as we know it today.


Though many nations partake in Halloween as we do, other countries put their own spin to the celebration. For example, the British celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th, which commemorates the death of the English traitor. During this day, effigies and fireworks are burned, and children walk the streets asking for a “penny for the guy.”


Mexico, Spain, and some Latin American countries celebrate Dia de Los Muertos on November 2nd. It is a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31st. During the holiday, it is believed the dead come to visit their earthly homes so relatives build an altar with pictures of their loved ones surrounded with their favorite food and belongings. They also visit their graves.  The festivity is full of parades and parties all over the country.


Different incarnations of Halloween can be found throughout the globe. Romania, for example, celebrates the day of Dracula, Japan has the Kawasaki parade, the Philippines has Pangangaluluwa where children go from door to door asking for prayers for those in purgatory, Hong Kong celebrates the Hungry Ghost festival, India has its Pitru Paksha, during which “souls return to earth”. Poland celebrates Dzien Zaduszny that is similar to All Saints day, Nigeria celebrates every two years the Awuru Odo Festival when souls return to earth for as long as six months, Cambodia has Pchum Ben, and Italy celebrates Ognissanti on November 1st and it is a National Holiday.


While the actual cultural festivities might differ, all cultures find their own special way to celebrate their departed loved ones to keep their spirits alive. So when you take your children trick or treating or you attend a Halloween party, think about the different ways this day will be celebrated and realize how an ancient pagan tradition has evolved into different traditions around the world.


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